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Sunday, 30 January 2005

Cracked POE (well, at least enough to get going with messages being passed around to varying components) and so the new media jukebox took a leap forward.

Saturday, 29 January 2005's now fully rehomed in its nice shiny data-centre. The netBook exhaulted itself by acting as a fantastic serial console; which was needed as it appears the disk is on the way out :-(

Wednesday, 26 January 2005

Belkin 802.11g card arrived for the new box - the ndiswrapper in Ubuntu (v0.10) crashed the box first time, but a simple compile of v1.0 pre-release from Sourceforge sorted that. It works well, very impressed.

Less impressed, though, with Perl's threads. v5.8 now implements a "data unshared by default" policy, with a : shared construct allowing individual variables to be shared across threads. An interesting idea (though if you wanted threads to be isolated with regards to data, why not just use fork()?) but unfortunately it doesn't work very well. Sharing objects (ie. blessed references) seems impossible, and you can't share file handles or any reasonably complex data structure. This makes them a little useless (NB: understatement). Tried various things like Thread::Simple (from CPAN), but that won't work on my system (a 2.6 kernel perhaps?) but then decided that this is the kind of thing that POE is designed for.

Unfortunately, POE's documentation is very sparse - I understand the concept, and how to design my application (after all, it's a simple co-operatively multitasking event driven system a bit like, erm, oh - WimpWorks ;-)); but finding the right mojo is proving tricky. Lots of tutorials for using components which have already been written, or filtering data, but nothing on building your own simple event driven application. I'll have to persevere and so'll hopefully end up writing my own tutorial.

I'll resist ranting about the police state powers the Home Secretary wants, and just quote something:

"This isn't the first step on the road to the Big Brother society. This is the Big Brother society."

Tuesday, 25 January 2005

Buried deep in a Slashdot comment is a way of doing content restyling in Mozilla/Firefox without the URIid extension.

Got quite far with "MediaFox" - my media-jukebox framework in Perl using Firefox as a front-end. Not much work left to do, really.

Next week's listings for our cinema are up - and still no Ray. It wouldn't be so bad, except it was advertised in that very cinema! Actually no, it'd be just as annoying.

Sunday, 23 January 2005

Uploaded the new site look & feel (well, for the non-TV content). Found a wide range of stock photos at SXC (although the quality is as wide ranging as the subject matter). Robert promptly told me that everyone knew about it already - I suppose that's what you get when you're a middleware developer rather than a full-time webmaster. Of course, it was also very spoiling having access to IBM's stock image library - in retrospect, it'd've been worth taking a copy.

Saturday, 22 January 2005

Decided that although Freevo is speedy (whereas MythTV was more featureful), its poor playlist handling for music makes it useless. Started work on my own media jukebox for Linux/Unix - will use Firefox (running in full screen), some JavaScript (given the specific use, I can live with it) and the old MP3 server I wrote years ago.

Have got pretty far already: cursor keys select different objects, it looks quite good (although some of MythTV's graphics help there) and can single-play both music and video.

Friday, 21 January 2005

Last day at IBM. A good crowd came down to the Clubhouse at lunchtime; and then afterwards Mel, Dave, Linda and I went to The Bridge for dinner.

Monday, 17 January 2005

Think I've managed to find a solution for bleb: someone's offered some cheap colo and am just ironing out the details. Would be good to find someone else who might want some webspace, though, so the costs can be lowered even further. I'll be making the "Donate" link much more prominent on the new site as well ;-)

Solved the SMTP problem with some weird iptables and port forwarding jiggery pokery:

 (++++++++++) ( Internet ) (++++++++++) | v [Router, port 25]--->[vir, port 25] ^                   | :                   v :             /------------\   No (defaults) :             | From coto? |-------------------\ :             \------------/                   | :                   |Yes (via iptables)        | :                   v                          v :          [vir's MUA, port 9825]    [redir, port 25 -> coto] :                                              | [coto's MUA, port 9825]<-----------------------------/ 

Unfortunately, couldn't get a DNAT rule using --to-destination working with an external IP, hence the use of redir(1). The key rule then becomes:

iptables -t nat -A PREROUTING -p tcp --dport 25 -s coto -j REDIRECT --to-port 9825

Because the home box is already the secondary MX, nothing needs to change :-)

Saw Team America: World Police: at best it's a poorly executed attempt to show that the hawkish neo-con agenda and the lefty liberal doves are both wrong. At worst, it's a puerile diatribe against anything and everything, solely produced to show off how clever Parker & Stone can be with movie in-jokes and schoolboy humour. Like its message, the reality probably lies somewhere between two extremes; however, like its message, it's clumsy, obfuscated and misses the point.

However, if that's one to avoid, Ray is looking absolutely fantastic :-)

Sunday, 16 January 2005

The machine running needs to move. The options are, OTTOMH:

  • Move it to a colocation service and try and get a few more people who want some space to share the cost.
  • Move the site off a dedicated box to some form of ISP hosting.
  • Scrap the TV pages and host the rest of the site (which is pretty much only of interest to myself) at the end of our broadband connection.

Others have suggested:

  • Cheaper, less functional, colo.
  • Cleverly distributing the high-bandwidth TV section across a network of volunteers' broadband/other connections.
  • Using kindly donated space on someone else's server.

Obviously, I'd rather not scrap the TV pages; and having a permanently connected box off-site with a fast connection is very handy; but over £500 a year to provide a free service doesn't sound fun. Directly charging for the TV pages isn't an option, given I'd want to give an SLA which I'd be unable to guarantee.

Distributing the XML data is an option, but the TV pages themselves are also a drain and distributing those could prove tricky (especially in terms of user accounts etc.)

Wednesday, 12 January 2005

Everyone and his dog (well, at least IBMers on IRC, cow-erkers and spods on TOTH) is excited about Apple's new "Mac Mini". Less than 400 quid for a decent processor in a tiny box with reasonable I/O and an OS which Just Works. Very tempting, except for the money we've already been spending this month...

Tuesday, 11 January 2005

Got MythTV up and running, but it turned out to be too slow on the 600MHz processor (needed to run qtconfig to configure a different font to get anti-aliasing). Replaced it with Freevo and, although less polished, this seems fine for the tasks I currently want: music and video playback. It also doesn't use a MySQL database for the most trivial of tasks. MythTV has good reasons for using a database, but the number of simple open source programs floating around using MySQL when a flat file would be much more lightweight, reliable and dependable is annoying.

Monday, 10 January 2005

Solved the Xine hang: it was the XFree86 VIA driver which worked when replaced by via_drv.o-unichrome_X_r25-debian_sarge_xfree86-4.3.0.dfsg1-7.gz from the Unichrome download area. Turns out the ME6000 does have enough grunt to play DivXs without any problem - including the highest resolution ones I've got and a sample from this dodgy site. This was found via the EpiaWiki.

Also my leaving IBM went public and we fixed on a leaving date: 21-Jan-2005. That'll give me about a week to work on various projects pretty much fulltime, so hopefully will get the aligned-times (amongst other things) sorted on the TV pages.

Friday, 07 January 2005

Uploaded Andrew Smithson's TV RSS feed to the TV pages. It's very handy when people contribute stuff like this: saves me having to write it :-)

Managed to find a work around for the Xine hang which crashes X: xine -V Xshm <file>. Apparently it's something to do with the XVideo extension, but whether it's a bug in Ubuntu's XFree86, Xine or just the X VIA driver I'm not sure.

Chris Handley uploaded the new version of his proper quoting of replies macro for EPOC incorporating my changes.

Thursday, 06 January 2005

The BBC have received thousands of complaints about Jerry Springer - The Opera (which they're planning to show on Saturday night) before it's even aired, due to an orchestrated campaign by middle-England Daily Mail readers who seem to hold prudish Victorian values about art, sex and the exposure of them to the public. Sorry, s/middle-England.*public/Mediawatch-UK/.

Mediawatch (who used to be headed by Mary Whitehouse) basically have two arguments:

  1. Even though it's after the watershed, "many" children will still be watching on televisions in their rooms.
  2. The portrayal of a slightly gay Jesus in a nappy is blasphemous - if it mocked Islam (or, say, Sikhism) then it'd never be allowed.

Now the first one is easy to knock down: the watershed has been universally agreed as a sensible cut-off; if any child is watching telly in their room after the watershed and sees inappropriate content, the parents shouldn't have given them a TV in their room in the first place! There's also a very valid argument that there's still a limited number of swear words (to be honest, the show probably only features one or two particularly strong ones) which any child over the age of, say, 6 is going to know anyway. Assuming that no-one would give an under-12 a telly in their room, the 12 year-old should have the maturity to know when it's appropriate to use such language.

As for Christianity being "mockable" but other faiths not (ignoring the glib comment that Christianity's arguably done more to deserve it ;-)), I think it's universally accepted that the cancellation of Behzti in Birmingham after violent protests from the Sikh community was a bad thing - not a cause for moral guardians of any religion to celebrate. These complaints from the Christian right should be decried by more moderate (sensible?) people within the Church as turning Christianity into yet another religion people are "scared" of offending.

There's also the argument that the BBC shouldn't be showing it as it is the last guardian of good taste. But can you imagine a commercial broadcaster holding up under this pressure? Advertisers would be mad to support it and it'd end up being dropped. The BBC is exactly the right organisation to be screening this to the wider population.

In the worse case, don't put it on? And perhaps there'll be more twelve year olds watching it because of the fuss these people are making - the promise of more than one expletive per second? Your average schoolboy will lap it up. Opera? Probably less so.

Wednesday, 05 January 2005

"vir"'s motherboard (a VIA EPIA ME6000), case (Silverstone SST-LC06) and hard disk (Maxtor 200GB 7200RPM) arrived.

The case is fantastically designed: easy to put together, clever tricks to save space, solid and looks good. Slightly annoying to find that the motherboard only came with a very quick installation guide, and had to go to the website for a full manual, but as with the Nehemiah board being used on, it's a lovely little motherboard and easy to connect up.

With the machine basically put together (but the lid still off so that the disks from the old server can be attached for data transfer), it was time to boot. First off: a Salvare CD - and it worked (albeit it appears Salvare needs the via_rhine network driver adding ;-)). Then tried the Ubuntu live CD and, now being suitably impressed decided to install Ubuntu proper.

I must admit to being very impressed with Ubuntu: the install was clear (though the LCD I'm using needed a boot parameter to select the correct video mode for the install) and simple and all the hardware was auto-detected - including the Netgear MA301 and its orinoco_plx driver.

USB mouse worked, including hotswapping it from port to port, and plugging in a USB keyboard worked as well (in addition to the PS/2 keyboard attached).

Tuesday, 04 January 2005

After some slightly less than positive comments, have decided to change the public facing part of this into a project log (a "plog", perhaps?) and miscellaneous comment, rather than a diary. The styling will reflect this when I've got some time off and update some parts of

With regards to projects: someone kindly donated £10 for running the TV pages (hint: the "donate" link is at the end of the second paragraph on the front page.

Monday, 03 January 2005

The server under the stairs (an old 350MHz AMD) didn't come back with the rest of the electrical devices when I turned the power back on. So finally put in an order for a Silverstone LC-06 case, VIA ME6000 motherboard and Maxtor 200GB harddrive.

Also did some hacking on Chris Handley's "Email Reply" macro to include signatures and attributions. Combined with FreEpoc's MaM I now don't have to worry about launching the macro from the wrong application. Very neat.

Saturday, 01 January 2005

Welcome to twenty-oh-five.

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